You are probably aware of this. I’m Catholic. I wouldn’t say I am a shining example of the faith, that it’s an easy ride for me, or that anyone should follow my lead. I would say, however, that I try to be reflective and balanced in my approach to Church, especially because I’m the only Catholic parent of two Catholic kids. (not going to try to speak to my husband’s spirituality; he is not Catholic)
Most of the days, I am easy with the balance. Some epic days, however, I am ready to throw it all out, pull the kids out of Catholic school and maybe tell a few people off. I have that feeling of square pegginess quite often; I am out of sync with the vocal conservative wing of the church as well as with the politics of most of the other parents of my affluent suburban parish. Usually that’s fine, but sometimes it makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong.
But Pope Francis – oh boy. I like what I’m hearing from this guy.
I know he’s not pushing, advocating, or suggesting changing doctrine. What I hear him asking us to do is to change our emphasis.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
My little marginalized ears perk up, especially considering the juxtaposition of these words with the disgusting way some of our elected officials used the Bible to justify their vote to slash $40 Billion from the food stamp program.
Coming out of Catholic schools, I believed in the party line – that all abortion was wrong. As I grew and experienced more of the world, I realized that such black and white thinking is limited, limiting, and does little more than give us a chance to pat ourselves on the back for being so righteous. I don’t pretend to have the answers to the big questions of when life begins, but what is often ignored is that the Church’s stance has shifted as well. (Google “ensoulment” if you’d like to dig into that one).
But this side-choosing has become the litmus test for our church and society in general. Why does it have to be that way? Who benefits from the rancor? Simply put, politicians do. Divide and conquer. I guarantee you that right-wing politicians do not want abortion banned in this country because it would eliminate their chance to use it to garner votes. Same same for gay marriage.
So instead of playing that game of ugliness and division, why can’t we focus on what unites us? Case in point:
In Ohio, it is legal for a rapist to seek parental rights through the court. Two Ohio senators, ardently pro-choice, introduced legislation to change that. Who praised them? Ohio Right to Life. AMEN, I say.
Instead of shaming women who seek annual exams at Planned Parenthood, why can’t we find more areas of agreement and work on those? In the food stamp example above, 76% of all households receiving food stamps have a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. Let’s try to focus on the vulnerable among us, those undeniably alive, who continue to suffer while we fight about the civil rights of embryos.
Maybe, just maybe, if we make this world a kinder place, women won’t seek abortion as frequently.
When we’ve exhausted all those avenues, then we can hash out our differences. I believe our areas of agreement will keep us busy for some time. I’m not asking you to change your mind, just open it to possibility.
And thank you, Pope Francis, for making me feel like it’s ok to speak out. For all of you who feel left out by the way this pope talks, who feel like the Church has alienated you — trust me when I say I know what this feel like.